02/12/04 — Civic center estimated to cost $15 million to $18 million

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Civic center estimated to cost $15 million to $18 million

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on February 12, 2004 2:04 PM

Goldsboro and county officials learned more Wednesday about what kind of civic center should be built, what it would cost and how long it would take to build it.

Consultant Ken Betsch of Design Strategies of Greenville, S.C., said a 90,000-square-foot building should provide enough room for current needs and future growth. The cost would be between $15 million and $18 million, and it could take up to six years to complete.

The company, which was hired by the city in September, has spent the last few months trying to pin down exactly what citizens, civic leaders and officials want.

The civic center, Betsch said, should have a number of features:

*A lobby large enough to be used for separate receptions and functions.

*A 19,000-square-foot ballroom that could be used for a large single banquet or a number of smaller simultaneous events.

*A 19,000-square-foot exhibition hall that could be linked with the ballroom to provide enough space for a banquet of over 1,200 people, small sporting events or hold exhibitions that could be as large as 200 booths.

*A large kitchen to allow for caterers to operate.

*Locker rooms for sporting events and performances.

The building would initially be used for community events, but would be big enough to handle conventions in the future.

"For the convention center business, you will first need to build up the number of available hotel rooms," he said. "You will see a building first that will service needs of community and gradually grow into a convention center."

The proposed building is larger than the one in Anderson, S.C., which members of the civic center committee have visited and viewed as a good model for Wayne County. It is only 78,000 square feet.

County Commissioner Atlas Price said he didn't think the building should be less than 90,000 square feet.

"I did like Anderson," he said, "but I saw some places that were too tight on space. If you're going to build it, build it right."

The next step for the committee is to get public comments about a civic center.

City Manager Richard Slozak said the city has contracted with a Greensboro surveying firm to create a questionnaire to be sent to about 5,000 people.

"The random samples will be sent out next month to get feedback," Slozak said. "The company said that we would probably get a 30 to 40 percent response rate."

Slozak said that the names for the questionnaire would be taken from either tax bills or utility bills.

The project could take as little as two and a half years to complete, but finding money for the civic center could stretch the time out, Betsch said.

"We're looking at a five- to six-year process," he said.

The estimated operating cost could be between $180,000 to $350,000, but that could be minimized by getting paying events, Betsch said.

County Commissioner Efton Sager said there were no doubts that the county needed a civic center, but how would it pay for it.

"This has to be a joint function to get it going," Slozak said. "It's inappropriate to ask the county to make a decision until they see the building."

Goldsboro Mayor Al King said that all who had a vote in the matter needed to make up their own minds.

"I'm convinced that the city and county need a civic center," he said. "It's a quality of life issue that is desperately needed."

Betsch said it was as necessary as schools and hospitals.

"The building will actually pay for itself; there are other ways the money comes back into the community," he said.

Commissioner John Bell said he knew that the county had other big projects it was working on, but the county could work on more than one thing at a time.

"No community can grow by just doing one thing at a time," he said.

Sager said he thought the commissioners favored it, but the financial aspect was the hard part.

"I agree that we can't do just one thing at a time, but we have to have priorities," he said.

The last part of the process would be deciding where the civic center should be.

"There's no right or wrong answer about location," Betsch said. "The Anderson facility is in the suburbs and is successful. Other downtown locations are also successful."

The city has bought land near Wayne Community College for a civic center, but over the last year, there has been a move toward building it downtown.